A Serbian Film
Director: Srdjan Spasojevic

Cast: Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic
Review by Brian M. Sammons

Newborn porn.

Those two words right there is really all you need to know about this flick. Now to be sure, no children, newborn or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this movie. The newborn in question is a special makeup effects puppet, but there is a scene with it where…

Ok, last chance to leave. For many just the thought of the repulsive stuff that happens in this movie is enough to turn their stomachs. I choose to start the review with those two words so right off the bat you know what you’re in for should you chose to watch this Mt. Everest of controversial films. Why beat around the bush with the little things like rape and necrophilia, right? So I plan on being as fair as possible to A Serbian Film, but that means I will have to discuss some very unpleasant things. Again, you’ve been warned.

The protagonist in this film is Milos, a legendary porn star living in Serbia and he has a pretty good life. Besides being blessed with an impressive tool to ply his trade with, he has a loving wife and a cute young son. In every way they are the perfect, happy family. Yeah, I’m sure nothing bad will happen to them. Anyway, as happy as Milos is, he is also having a hard time making ends meet after retiring from the porn business. Then he hears about a strange director who wants to make artistic porn flicks that will put Serbia on the map. Unfortunately what this psycho considers “artistic” varies wildly from what normal people think of as art.

Before long Milos is trapped in a dark spiral of sex, death, depravity, more sex, more death, and yes, loads and loads of more depravity. Worse, he’s having unexplained blackouts where he’s losing days at a time, only to wake up bruised and bloody, with most of the blood on him not being his. So begins Milos’ quest to understanding what he got himself into and how he can escape it. But really, he should have known something was wrong from the start, where for his first scene with the new director, a woman with makeup smeared from crying and face freshly bruised crawls across the floor to service him, while a thug sneaks up behind Milos to put him in a choke hold and orders him to “hit the whore” repeatedly in the face with his fist while she tends to his little Milos. Oh and all this takes place in front of a little girl dressed like Alice in Wonder Land. ART!

And how messed up is it that that’s about the tamest of the atrocities this movie revels in? Other lowlights include; man on man rape, man on boy rape, incest, chopping a woman’s head off while continuing to rape her twitching body, a woman with her teeth pulled out being choked to death on a man’s penis, a man is literally skull f***** in his eye socket to death, and honestly I can go on and on. And what’s strange is that this new Blu-ray, while proudly proclaiming on the cover that it is unrated, has been cut from the screener I was originally sent some months back. Most noticeably (and thankfully) missing were parts from the newborn porn scene. Now you don’t even see the puppet baby and what happens to it, but you still get to hear it. So uhm, yay for that I guess? And the other scene of child abuse (yes this fine film has more than one) has also been recut to be more implied and less graphic. But really, if you’re going to take such perverse delight in wallowing through filth, why leave anything out? I guess the filmmakers got tired of being dragged into court for making kiddie porn. They actually didn’t, but I could see how some people may have been confused.

Yes, the “why leave anything out” line was a joke. A very dark, sick joke and I’m trying my best to resist the cheap shot by saying that so was this film. Why resist? Because … ok get ready to hate me.

I hate censorship in any form, so as long as a work of art doesn’t actually hurt anyone then it has a right to exist. This movie, as horrible as it is, didn’t actually hurt any of the people, or puppets, it shows being hurt in it. You, me, and everyone else has the right to revile it and not watch it, but that doesn’t mean we should ban it. I know my opinion may not be the popular one, and it’s far from the PC one, but I’ve always believed that if you don’t like something, then don’t read, watch, or listen to it. It’s that simple. That’s why I detailed, as tastefully as possible, some of the worst parts of this film for you in this review. If what I’ve briefly described here doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time then for god’s sake DON’T WATCH THIS MOVIE. If it does sound like your idea of a good time then for god’s sake STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ME.

Also, if one of the goals of a horror film is to horrify then A Serbian Film wins the all-time grand prize for that. This isn’t a fun fright flick; this isn’t a campy slasher movie from the ’80s; this isn’t even a cool zombie gorefest; and it makes all the modern torture porn films look cute and cuddly by comparison. It even makes the bleakest movies I have even seen before this, like for example the French feel bad movie Martyrs, seem positively bright and sunny. If this film doesn’t sicken and repulse you, even a little, then there’s something wrong with you. Seriously, seek professional help. However, to sicken and repulse is to horrify, so again, A Serbian Film is nothing if not effective.

Lastly I must say, that despite its horrific subject matter, this movie is actually well made, acted and shot. It looks surprisingly good. Hearing rumors and whispers about this film in advance of seeing it for the first time, I guess I was expecting an obviously low budget, incompetently made, almost grindhouse-like, or worse yet, direct to video style of movie. I think it’s actually kind of more disturbing that this film was made with such skill and style. Yes it wants to sicken you, but there’s more to it than just cheap gags. By “gags” I mean the sound you will no doubt make when trying hard not to vomit while watching this film. And when I say that this movie has more to it than over the top, “Aren’t we shocking” moments, I actually mean that. There is a real message to be had here, however it is so obscured by such jaded, mean spirited, angry and nihilistic filmmaking that it is hard to see any of it. I’ll leave it up to you to decipher the message, should you ever watch this film for yourself. That way you might be able to sleep at night afterwards by telling yourself you were sitting through A Serbian Film for artistic reasons. Yeah, just keep telling yourself that.

Sadly the new Blu-ray from Invincible Pictures is as bare bones as a disc can get. I would have loved to have had some interviews with the filmmakers for a number of reasons, like to find out just what the hell they were thinking when they made this flick, or to hear them defend it after the mountain of criticism fell on it. Should moviemakers be forced to defend and explain their films? No, but in this case I really wish they would have.

A Serbian Film is a hard movie to sit through and as such I really can’t recommend it to anyone. But I do sort of understand at least some of the things they were trying to say with it, not that I agree with them, and so I won’t jump on the “let’s condemn this piece of trash” bandwagon. I guess the only way I could recommend this movie is if you’re looking to push your limits of good taste, and even then I would seriously warn against it.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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